2 min

‘It’s not my birthday, we got married’

In which a senior lesbian explains getting hitched

My longtime sailor friend Butters, a senior lesbian who lives on the Gulf Islands, left the following message on my answering machine.

Her entire achievement-filled life has been lived in utterly resistance to sexism and especially to ageism. Woe betide those who dare ask her age, put her in a category or treat older women as invisible. And if you are her friend, you do not call her on her birthday-which she had recently. She shouts at misguided well-wishers, “Don’t phone me on my birthday. It’s depressing. Who wants to be reminded you’re one step closer to that?”

Knowing her birthday had just passed, I was surprised at first to see I had a message from Butters blinking on my answering machine.


Oh, too bad it’s your voice mail. We’re calling with some news. We just sailed home and want you to know we got married Monday. We didn’t want a fuss. Just four of us were there.

We went to a nice justice of the peace-female-with our friends Sara and Betty on Saturna.

Eighteen years together and now we’re married. No family, nobody knew.

When our island friends act shocked at the news, we tell ’em we couldn’t invite a soul on Pender for fear we’d leave somebody out.

But you know, we really kept quiet we were getting married ’cause we didn’t want to discuss it. Not everybody, even in our own community, agrees with this marriage business. They’re against same-sex stuff. I don’t want to hear all those opinions. I don’t care.

And you know, some of my older friends are embarrassed to hear about ‘gay.’ When we were young, you’d never admit openly or say so-and-so was your lover. It just wasn’t done. Even if there was a funeral, it was just “Oh, my friend died.” Lesbian was shameful. We covered it up. I was like that ’til I got with Louise 18 years ago. She made me change, got all that out of me.

Believe me, I had a lot of changing to do back then-being 59 with a 29-year-old lover. Louise. Oh boy, when we got together, we were the scandal of the inlet. Lots of my friends wouldn’t talk to me, taking up with a hippie artist half my age. And a proud lesbian at that. So beautiful she turned heads everywhere. Ha, I liked makin’ people jealous.

Now society’s changed. Getting married is my right. You might not understand now, but back then we felt dirty. That’s hard to shake. So now the law changed, you bet I got married.